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Why are road crashes rising in Dhaka?

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Abdul Goni, 28, has been driving a bus for a private company for the past seven years as a contractual employee. His duty starts at 6am and continues till 11pm almost every day. He has an earning target of around Tk12,000 per day.

However, the debilitating traffic jam in Dhaka robs him of seven to eight of his daily working hours, which in turn cuts down his income. Goni turns into a reckless driver during midday, with hopes of making as many trips as possible in an attempt to make up for lost time. Speaking to the correspondent, Goni explained his situation: “I need to pay the owner bus rent of Tk3,000 every day.

I also have to bear additional costs up to Tk5,000, which includes paying the helper, and buying food and fuel. “There is also extortion by the police on the roads, further adding to our misery. After covering those expenses, I make little for myself.”

Goni pointed out that most of the buses are being operated as a trip based system, and many drivers become aggressive to compensate for time lost in gridlock. The story of majority of the public transport drivers is more or less the same. The daily income of most bus drivers in Dhaka has gone down due to consistent tailback.

This is a major factor behind the rise of road accidents in Dhaka.

Traffic jam: The real perpetrator?

According to a World Bank analysis, average traffic speed in Dhaka has dropped from 21 kilometer to 7 kilometer per hour over the last 10 years. Congestion in the capital kills about 3.2million working hours every day. Road accidents in Bangladesh have reached an epidemic level with over 1,000 people dead in road crashes in the first three months of this year.

According to data compiled by Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Bangladesh witnessed a total of 789 road crashes that left 1,049 people dead and 2,015 injured from January to March in 2018. Among these mishaps, 57 road accidents occurred in Dhaka, taking 59 lives and injuring 115 people. Blaming the untrained drivers alone might not be the solution, as 60% of the road accident victims were pedestrians.

Mohammad Salim, a bus helper, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The public transport system frequently comes to a halt on the streets of Dhaka for long periods of time, which is quite common. But the problem becomes unbearable in summer due to the heat. “Unable to suffer the summer heat for an extended period of time, the passengers push the drivers to drive faster.

The drivers comply with the passengers’ demand most of the time.” Commenting on the alarming rise in road accidents, he said: “Pedestrians have a habit of walking on the streets haphazardly, which in turn increases the risk of road accidents. But most of the time, the vehicle driver is blamed for an incident.”

A trail of bodies

Rajib Hossain, a 22-year-old Government Titumir College student, initially lost his right arm and later his life, when a bus of Sajan Paribahan hit a BRTC double-decker bus parked at the SAARC circle on April 3.

On April 5, Ayesha Khatun, 25, sustained major injuries when two Bikash Paribahan buses tried overtaking her rickshaw from both sides and ended up crushing the rickshaw in Chandrima Super Market area. On April 11, the right leg of Runi Akhter, an MBA student of the University of Development Alternative, was crushed as she was caught between a road divider and a bus of New Vision Paribahan at Farmgate in Dhaka. On April 20, Rozina Akhter, 16, lost her right leg as a BRTC bus ran her over on Airport Road in Banani.

Masuda, 35, who worked as a nurse at a private clinic, was killed after a truck hit her rickshaw in the Dhanmondi area the same night. Using police records as reference, ARI data shows that on average, 3,000 road accidents take place in Bangladesh annually, killing around 2,700 people and injuring about 2,400.

The estimated economic loss from these accidents reaches Tk40,000 crore annually, which is 2% to 3% of Bangladesh’s GDP. However, data from Bangladesh Passengers Welfare Association (BPWA) places the number of overall casualties from road crashes even higher. According to their statistics, as many as 7,397 people lost their lives in 4,979 road accidents throughout Bangladesh in 2017, while another 16,193 were injured.

Their data further shows that 6,055 people died and 15,914 were injured in 4,312 accidents in 2016. In 2015, a total of 8,642 people died and 21,855 people were injured from 6,581 accidents across Bangladesh.

Who to blame?

A number of transportation experts believe that reckless drivers are the core reason behind the staggering number of road accidents in the country. “Heavy traffic jam in the city makes the transport workers more reckless as they fail to make targeted number of trips because of traffic jam, making drivers more aggressive as gridlock cuts down their income,” they added.

Kazi Md Saifun Newaz, an assistant professor at the ARI, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Traffic accidents are becoming more frequent because of reckless driving, aggressive overtaking, urgency to make more trips, pedestrians not using the foot over bridge and widespread lack of awareness on the road.” He added that the drivers should not be blamed for every accident that occurs in the country. Mahbub-E-Rabbani, director (road safety) of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) echoed the same opinion.

He said: “The primary reason for this is the number of illegal vehicles and unskilled drivers that lack even the basic training. They are running vehicles without heavy vehicles license. “Even many drivers do not have any license, and the number of such drivers is not decreasing.

Their negligence is leading to road accidents.” Passengers’ Welfare Association Secretary General Mozammel Haque Chowdhury also blamed unskilled drivers and people who are driving on the road without valid licenses behind casualties on the road.

Initiatives for solution

The BRTA, for the last three years, has been running a training program for the implementation of safer roads. Under this initiative, drivers are receiving practical training and licenses are issued only to trained drivers.

Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DTCA) Traffic Engineer Md Anisur Rahman said that the government is planning to implement a project for establishing specific rules and regulations for bus owners and drivers. Anisur said: “Under the project, the government will foot the bill for losses, with aims to create a friendly transportation environment for both the drivers and the passengers on the road. “Drivers will be free from the additional stress of trying to complete their trip quota.

This in turn could help reduce road accidents by 50%.” Abdur Rahim Box Dudu, senior vice-president of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Drivers are driving vehicles on the streets in an unfair environment. “The trip based system and drivers paying daily rent to bus owners are major reasons behind the rising number of road accidents.

Drivers pay most of the operating cost, leading to fierce competition among them on the road.”

Experts have recommended a number of moves to improve the current road safety issues, such as repairing the roads, improving the traffic police control system and ensuring more cooperation between the workers and owners.

Smart road studs guide drivers to safety

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Since their invention in the 1930s, reflective road studs have helped drivers stay safe at night. EU-funded research has now demonstrated that upgrading such devices with smart energy-saving technology has the potential to save lives.

(C) envfx – fotolia.com Road studs – also known as cat’s eyes – are small elevations found on streets around the world that serve to demarcate traffic lanes and foster safe driving.

Originally fitted with reflective spheres lit by vehicle lights, road studs have increasingly been upgraded with LED lights in recent years to enhance their visibility, especially in areas with increased risk of accidents such as unlit country roads. Taking the concept further, the EU-funded project INROADS added integrated communication and sensor systems – powered by renewable energy – to make these LED road studs smarter. “We wanted to understand the range of uses of intelligent road studs,” says project coordinator Martin Greene of the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL Limited) in the United Kingdom. “For example, could we put them into a low power mode, only illuminating them when traffic approached to save money and CO2 emissions due to reduced energy use?”

Better behaviour behind the wheel

Once the intelligent roads studs had been designed and tested in the laboratory, it was time to try them out in the real world.

Field-testing focused on active lane marking applications and was carried out at test facilities in Spain and Austria. Live road testing was performed on the A6 autobahn between Vienna and the Slovak capital of Bratislava and in Israel on a disused service road east of Tel Aviv. “We chose to focus on the most technically challenging potential applications,” says Greene. “It was also important to design road studs to be compatible with current traffic management systems and to use current communication standards.”

At project partner IFSTTAR’s facility in Paris, volunteers were tested on driving simulators where their behaviour and attention levels were monitored. They were given three different driving scenarios which simulated driving on a curved road in different conditions; an unlit road lit by headlights, a road with standard street lights and a section illuminated using active road studs. “The results of simulations were extremely encouraging,” says Greene. “Drivers performed better and kept to their lanes when guided by intelligent road studs – they even reduced their speed compared with driving with only headlights or street lights.”

A comprehensive study of the project into the costs and benefits of intelligent road studs showed clear potential regarding safety, cost and carbon emission reductions. Another major INROADS outcome was a study of how drivers would act and think when guided by intelligent road studs. This analysis confirmed that drivers reacted favourably to intelligent road studs by decreasing their speed before, during and after driving around dangerous curves.

Future uses

INROADS found much potential in further developing smart road studs.

The project confirmed that smart road studs communicating with a central traffic management could react to their environment. Intelligent road studs could also be used over a wide area to communicate changing road conditions to drivers and alert them in advance about possible dangers ahead. And by using renewable energy, they could provide a cheaper and safer alternative to traditional street lighting on rural roads.

INROAD’s technology is already being recognised, with project coordinator TRL being awarded a contract from Transport for London – the UK capital’s local transportation system authority – to undertake a simulator study for a variable use transport lane based on smart LED technology.

And while the system is not yet ready for production, the technology continues to be optimised and developed further to meet commercial standards.

Project details

  • Project acronym: INROADS
  • Participants: United Kingdom, Austria, Spain, Israel, France
  • Project N?: 285343
  • Total costs: EUR 3 853 305
  • EU contribution: EUR 2 536 758
  • Duration: December 2011 to May 2015

See also

Northport now a container port after first container-only cargo ship leaves

Northport at Marsden Point has officially become a container port, with the first containers leaving on a new direct shipping service between Whangarei, Brisbane and Singapore.

The containers were loaded aboard the container ship Northern Diplomat at the weekend for the first all-container international shipping service to operate from the port.

The seasonal fortnightly service is being offered to Northland businesses by Mediterranean Shipping Company, and will improve sea freight transit times for local importers and exporters.

Customers already signed up to use the service include Northland growers of kiwifruit and other fruit and exporters of manufactured timber products. Advertisement

The deal with Northland’s £40 million kiwifruit industry will take more than 500 truck and trailer trips off the road south of Whangarei, and boost profits for the people who grow the fruit for export. At the moment Northland kiwifruit is trucked to Auckland where it is then put on a train to the Port of Tauranga.

The new service will run for the remainder of the 2018 fruit export period but will be available for any kind of import or export container shipment.

Northport’s commercial manager David Finchett said it represented an opportunity for all industries across the region.

He urged Northland business, both importers and exporters, to explore the possibilities presented by the new service.

“Our goal is to build cargo volumes to the point where the service becomes regular instead of seasonal. If we can demonstrate consistent demand for this shipping link from Northland importers and exporters there is no reason why it should not become a weekly service instead of a fortnightly one,” Finchett said.

“It’s a great option for Northland business that has taken a lot of work and coordination by Northport, Northland Inc and many other parties, to bring about. But, like all things, if we don’t use it we’ll lose it.

So we really hope that Northland makes the most of it.”

David Wilson, chief executive officer of Northland’s economic development agency Northland Inc, said new sea freight services linking the region directly with international markets presented a significant opportunity for its economy.

Northland produces about three and a half million trays of kiwifruit a year, which equates to about 13,000 pallets and is worth about £40 million. The cost to get one pallet of kiwifruit from Kerikeri to the Bay of Plenty is about £102. To load that same pallet at Marsden Point is expected to cost about £36, a saving of £66.

“Until now many Northland businesses have had to incur cost and time penalties to either bring things in through or ship products out of, other ports.

Links like this one, using our very own local port, bring new levels of competitive advantage to Northland and should be both welcomed and supported by local business owners,” Wilson said.

“The growth of Northport is a project within the Northland Tai Tokerau Economic Action Plan and will be an important part of any integrated logistic solution for Auckland and the top half of the North Island.”

Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai described the opening of the new route as “fantastic news” that would further connect Northland with the world and strengthen the case for the relocation of Auckland-based manufacturers to Whangarei and the Marsden Point area, with its abundance of inexpensive industrial and port-zoned land.

Carl Muller, general manager of Orangewood, a post-harvest and orchard management company in the Far North, said the new service was “a real coup” for the region’s kiwifruit growers.

It was more efficient and cost-effective than export routes they had been using previously and MSC’s Singapore hub gave exporters easy access to markets virtually anywhere.

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